Mayor Ron Nirenberg and supporters of the Go Vote No campaign call citizens to vote down the proposed charter amendments during the November elections.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg and supporters of the Go Vote No campaign call on citizens to vote down the proposed charter amendments in October 2018. Credit: Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Several local Democratic party precinct chairs and organizers on Tuesday spoke in opposition to the three propositions San Antonio voters will see on the November ballot and said the Bexar County Democratic Party’s endorsement, announced more than a week ago, would be overturned by a forthcoming vote.

While the proposal to endorse the City charter amendments passed at the party’s Executive Committee’s meeting in August, a majority of the committee’s 263 precinct chairs were absent and did not vote, Party Chair Monica Alcántara said in a Sept. 21 statement.

This is just the latest example of infighting between two factions of the local party that stems from the ousting of former chair Manuel Medina earlier this year. Medina lost several party members’ support during his controversial bid for mayor in 2016, but a group of so-called “Manuelistas” have made it difficult for Alcántara to effectively run the party, party member have said.

“Democrats were being misled” into supporting the propositions, which were placed on the ballot by the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association, party member Verna Blackwell said during a press conference Tuesday, adding that working Democrats “are ‘say no’ Democrats” when it comes to the propositions.

Verna Blackwell speaks to fellow supporters of the Go Vote No campaign during a press conference.
Verna Blackwell speaks to fellow supporters of the Go Vote No campaign during a press conference. Credit: Scott Ball / Rivard Report

The press conference took place outside Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s campaign headquarters on lower Broadway. Most of the speakers, including Blackwell, stated personal opinions rather than speaking on behalf of the party. Its Executive Committee is expected to vote on whether to support the propositions again on Oct. 10, this time with more precinct chairs in the room, Blackwell said.

The propositions would (A) expand the scope of future ballot referenda and lower the threshold for signatures on future ballot petitions, (B) limit the tenure and pay of future city managers, and (C) force binding arbitration on labor contract negotiations between the City and union.

Prop A would mean only 3 percent, rather than 10 percent of voters, could place City Council decision on future ballots. That could put the City at the mercy of special interests, Blackwell said. Citizens elect their City Council members for a reason, she added: to represent them.

Monica Alcantara, Bexar County Democratic Party Chairwoman.
Monica Alcantara, Bexar County Democratic Party Chairwoman. Credit: Chairwoman Monica Alcántara / Facebook

“This is not about Democrats or Republicans or Independents or Libertarians or Rastafarians or vegetarians,” Nirenberg said. “This is about making sure that every citizen in San Antonio knows that we work together – the whole community  – to protect our future.”

Alcántara did not attend the press conference on Tuesday, but she sent a communication to members and local media outlining her concerns on Sept. 21, the day after the party’s endorsement was announced.

“This endorsement has created serious concerns among a significant number of members of the BCDP County Executive Committee (CEC) and Democratic elected officials and candidates,” she wrote. “Although the proposal to endorse the City Charter Amendments passed at the August CEC meeting, a majority of the 263 precinct chairs who currently compose the CEC were not present and did not vote.

“The endorsement of the amendments – launched by the San Antonio Professional Firefighters’ [Association] – is particularly concerning because the union has publicly endorsed 21 Republican candidates running in Bexar County … The endorsement of these charter amendments joins the BCDP with the Firefighters’ Union during an election cycle when they are actively working to elect Republican candidates and working against our goals to ‘turn Texas blue.’

“To be clear, the primary goal of the Bexar County Democratic Party is to support Democratic candidates up and down the ballot who support fair and livable wages for all workers, healthcare for all citizens as a right of the American people, policies that support a strong public education system and equal pay for women. Historically, the BCDP has remained impartial in non-partisan referendums and local bond issues for this very reason.”

Meanwhile, the fire union has yet to come to the negotiating table with the City for a new contract. Officials, particularly union President Chris Steele, have refused to do so before and after the City filed and lost is lawsuit challenging the previous contract’s evergreen clause, which keeps the terms in place for 10 years until a new agreement is met.

Iris Dimmick

Iris Dimmick

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick covers City Hall, politics, development, and more. Contact her at iris@rivardreport.com